New Way to be Human

Nov. 18 2004, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. I started this blog to chronicle her journey. July 19, 2005 she gave her life in the battle. This blog is my place to process through the journey I walked along with her, and now my journey through grief. It's also a place to discuss the effects cancer has on the lives it touches--survivors and caregivers alike. I'm a Navy wife, a Mom, and my mother's daughter now and forever.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Things I Learned from Gramma W.

This of course relates to yesterdays post... These are some things I learned from my Gramma.

It's not a Sofa, or a Couch... It's a DAVENPORT.

Always stop at Wall-drug.

Barefoot is BEAUTIFUL.

It never hurts to spruce up one's hair, even if only to go for groceries.

Splurge a little and get your hair done once in a while (when going with grandkids in tow, choose a salon that comes with lollipops).

When there's no one else to blame... blame Bobble-head (Republicans are ALWAYS a good choice).

Never be afraid to voice your opinion.

Try not to look too "festive" when attending a funeral.

Willow-trees are not for swinging on, but they are good shade to play ball under.

If there are moaning sounds in the night... chances are it is not monsters or ghosts but wind in the pines... But checking with a flashlight just in case is ok.

Chattery grandchildren make good sleeping companions.

A little spoiling never hurt anybody.

If you eat too many sweets, too fast.... you WILL get a bellyache (something I didn't fully believe until adulthood).

Say Thank You.

Cards for Halloween, Valentine's Day, etc. are not excessive.

Attics are not scary.

Try not to look as if you were dressed by a pitchfork.

If you put a slick sleeping bag on top of a slick comforter... you may end up cold and covered up in the curtains by morning.

Always keep a stash of Milky Way bars in the fridge (I suspect her reasons for doing so were different than mine are now).

Speaking of stashes--Always have some Graham Crackers nearby.

Shots aren't so scary.

You can find friends even in weird places like hospitals.

Momentos of places visited and people loved should be kept and will be cherished by those who come after you.

Beaded necklaces, if worn well, are very fashionable.

Fiestiness will help you fight life's battles.

Marry a man who would make a good tricycle plumber.

The experience of pregnancy and childbirth will stay fresh in your mind long after your own kids are grown and gone... and you can and should share that with other generations when their time comes.

70+ years is not too long to love someone... especially your husband.

Having a 'perfect family' is unattainable... but having one full of love is noble and should be strived for.

These are things I thought of when I looked back over time with Gramma. Some of the things I remembered through conversations with other family members, some from things Mom would say that came from Gramma, and most came from... memories of times spent with Gramma herself. I think Gram was a pretty smart lady.

I was uniquely blessed to have such an amazing grandmother around when I was little. Gramma W. was one of my very, very, very favorite people to see... I loved when she came to see us, and I LOVED going to see her. I have so many memories wrapped up in their old green house. I always loved hugging her when we saw her and feeling her soft cheek up against mine... And I loved being spoiled (how awful was I when I'd come home from her house, Mom and Dad??? No... don't answer that).

I was sad and jealous when Gramma and Grandpa moved to Idaho and Luke and Gavin got to be the Grand-kids in proximity... But now I know that they needed Gram and Grandpa more than I did then, and I am thankful that they helped make them into the remarkable men that they are.

I have so many kid memories of Gramma... but the fewer 'more grown-up memories' I have are just as precious. When I called Gramma about this baby on this way she was by far the most excited person I talked to... And I was amazed at how much she remembered from each one of her pregnancies... and how happy her voice was recalling the entrance of each of her kids into the world. I so wish that she could see this little girl when she arrives... but little girl will be just as impacted by Gramma Wherry because of the impact Gramma had on me, and all of my family.

Those are some memories and thoughts that I have... I miss my Gramma already.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Last Three Days

I feel as if I have been beaten.... I'm still trudging on, but my body, mind, and heart are just exhausted. The last three or four days (not to mention the last 3 or 4 months) have been absolutely brutal.

On Monday night while talking to Dad, I found out that something had happened to my Grandma W. who has lived the last decade or more with my aunt in Idaho. We weren't sure what, and Mom and Dad had had a rough day of too much time in the hospital, so I called Aunt Kathy to get to the bottom of things. I found out from her that Grandma had had a stroke. She was responsive, and ornery... though she was having some trouble processing her words... Aunt Kathy sounded more worried than normal though. I wasn't sure what we were looking at. I went to bed with a bad feeling in my stomach, but thinking "Ok, this is just a stroke... Gramma bounces back. We'll get through this. She still has to meet her great-granddaughter."

I was still sleeping at 8:30 the next morning when my phone rang. It was my cousin Luke. He was very, very upset and I could tell it was about Gramma. I knew I was missing part of the puzzle--it was just a stroke, right? No... Gramma was dying. We had hours left. A few phone calls later I found out that she had been doing well the night before, but in the middle of the night she started bleeding internally. Her blood count when they were deciding what to do was down to 4. The best decision seemed to be to make Gramma comfortable and let her go.

So here I sat. 9 months pregnant. Baby coming any day now. I was pushing the envelope when I went to IL for weeks 34 and 35 of pregnancy. Travelling to gramma by plane was completely out. Travelling 10 hours by car didn't sound like a wise idea either, did it? I called our Doula, "Don't do it. You could have this baby any day" (this from the same woman who has been telling me I have weeks left and that this baby won't come anytime soon). I called my doctor, "Travelling that far is highly unadvisable. You will either get a blood clot or go into labor" (Really--it'll be an either or scenario?). And then... there was my husband. I may be dumb enough to travel 10 hours when I'm full term, but not dumb enough to do it alone.

At this point let me explain that my Grandparents lived most of their lives near where I grew up. That was "home" to them. So... Bizarrely, I knew that my whole family would be heading to my hometown for the funeral and I would not. I can't explain to you what a helpless feeling it is to be 39 weeks pregnant... knowing that general wisdom says STAY PUT NO MATTER WHAT... knowing that getting to my Grandmother--before she passed or after--meant a 10 hour car ride, and that there was no way to get to my hometown for the funeral to grieve with my family. On top of that, I know how sick my Mom is... I know that the family will converge upon her house. I know that her and Dad aren't up to it. I know that now she will need to grieve the loss of her mother on top of fighting for her life. I want so badly to be there to help them walk through that. Was there nothing I could do???

Andy came home and we tried to figure out what to do... after crying a lot and hashing it through I realized I HAD TO GO. Whether I got there before Gramma died or after, I HAD TO GET THERE. So... we went about looking into logistics. For once, we felt taken care of by the Navy. Before Andy had even called work back, he was set up with 4 days special lib (he is very low on leave because of baby coming and needs this year). But... we had to call the Red Cross and get an emergency call in. I won't even tell you the whole story about the Red Cross phone call. Let me say that I am VERY GRATEFUL for the service they provide in helping servicemembers and their families connect when there are emergencies.... but they need to have people who know something about the military on the other end of the phone and they need to realize that when people are in the midst of emergencies they don't have time to spend an hour on the phone answering assinine questions and having to clarify that the servicemember in question is in the NAVY not the AIR FORCE or the ARMY (something I tried to make clear in the beginning of the call).

After... throwing our world together and finally straightening things out (and thumbing my nose at my doctor...), we were on our way. Let me pause to say that... packing a car knowing that you a preparing for the death of one family member and the birth of another is completely surreal. The car was packed to the gills with... well, all we would need to deal with a few days of what you do in life after a person dies, and... bags for the hospital, a car seat, baby clothes--just in case the baby came along the way.

Then, Aunt Kathy called and told us Gramma was gone. I debated for a little bit about whether we should go at that point... but something in me knew I needed to be with my family and to take part in the process of saying goodbye to Gramma in some capacity.

So... we headed out to Idaho. It was a long ride... 10 hours... Heavy with my unborn child and thoughts of how she would never meet one of the most extraordinary women to have helped to shape my life. Knowing that I had been excited about moving to this part of the country because I would get to visit my gramma, and that despite our being here 9 months, we hadn't been able to do so yet... and knowing that I promised I would bring my gram her great-granddaughter to see as soon as she was here... and that I wouldn't be able to fulfill that promise.

I made the right choice... I did need my family--even if it was just the small part that gathered in Idaho. I was able to contribute to the bigger picture of our grieving as a family and doing the business of things that need done when a person dies. Most importantly, I was able to say good-bye to my grandmother... We went to the funeral home handling things in Idaho and we were able to see Gramma. I whispered the name of our daughter to her... She is the only one who knows her name, and will be the only one who knows until she gets here.

Yesterday we helped with odds and ends before we headed back here, and my Idaho family headed to the airport to go back to my hometown. And then we travelled the long 10 hours back. Guess what--despite my doctor's and doula's fears the baby didn't come and I didn't get a blood clot. She may be here anytime now.

I figure maybe Gramma left when she did because she didn't know of another way to be with me when the baby is born... This way at least her spirit will be able to hover with us when she comes into the world. That is a comfort.

But I still feel beaten... I can't explain to anyone what it is like to be 9 months pregnant, to be fighting with my mother for her life against the beast of Stage 4 lung cancer, to know that my husband has only weeks left with me before a potential 10-12 months apart (with short reprieves in the beginning only), and to lose my grandmother days before my daughter comes into the world. The vast majority of people in my life have no idea that the last 3 days even happened. For all they know, I've been sitting at home just waiting and preparing for my daughter to arrive (I have to admit a part of me thinks that's what life should have let me do). Those I have talked to don't seem to have any concept of how... very wearying juggling all of these major life complications and worries and fears and realities are. I almost feel as if the general consensus feels I should just be trudging merrily along (after all I'm having a baby and that's great, right?). This is something I can't understand because I've seen a good deal more space to deal with things given people tackling things one at a time rather than all at once. I feel very alone, very tired, and as I keep saying... beaten up.

But I'm not down and out. I'll pop up before the 10 count is done. I'll give birth to this little girl... I'll deal with her daddy leaving...I'll hold the knowledge close to my heart that my gramma loves us and is with us even after death, and that my mom loves us and is with us even from a distance... I'll get to my mom to spend as much time as I can with her... I'll do what needs doing... and I'll keep finding out that I'm stronger than I ever imagined. (And I'll try to drown out the voice that says that it other people don't seem to think things are as tough as they are, so maybe I really am just being a baby).

I'll do all this because that's the other thing I am finding that I feel lately. When I don't feel like collapsing into a puddle of tears... or throwing up my hands and saying, "I'm done," I confess to feeling a small amount of pride. Am I broken? Yes... I become a little more so each day I think. But... to put it in the words of one of my favorite verses, "I am pressed, but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed." I will keep going until Abba says stop. I will rest when I am able. I will fight when I am able. I will cry when I must, and laugh when the moments afford. But I will keep going. I have kept going. And I think that's something worth being proud of.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Mom Connection

So I'm having a baby soon. Even if Mom didn't have cancer I know I would be musing right now at how deep the mother/daughter connection is. I was thinking today of a poem Mom had out by the front door--was probably in my nursery to begin with--that said,

"I hope when my children look back on today
They'll remember their parents took time out to play
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby
And baby's don't keep."

I want that placard to put up in our nursery (whichever state it may be in).

I know that when the baby gets here and I'm trying to figure things out that the thought, "How did Mom do this?" will go through my head over and over again. The baby will be coming home in an outfit that Mom picked out, and in the blanket I came home from the hospital in. And there are other ways that are still a secret for right now that we will be trying to honor her and her impact on her lives when baby gets here.

It's so deep... I feel Mom every day. I think Mom thoughts every day. When I came home from my last doctor's appointment musing that I was glad I'd found a doctor with small hands it was Mom I wanted to share that with. (hehe)

Mom gave me the mindset that I feel bubbling up in me as I start this journey. It's this feeling that... No... I'm not going to do everything right... and I probably would shock the writers of the bazillion books I'm reading by some of the things I will choose to do, but I am going to love my baby and do right by her. That is a spirit that came from my imperfect but wonderful mom.

I guess in some ways it is a comfort. If this dread disease wins (and we're not planning on letting it), that will be one way Mom will always be with me. But some days... and this is reflected in my phone call post... it hurts because it just feels like I can't get to her. And it makes me sad... and makes me mad.

Again... maybe this is something that will be improved when I am living close to them again. I don't know. I hope so. And maybe once we get through some of this chemo, Mom will have some better days where we'll be able to talk like we used to. I hope so. I pray so.

Phone Calls

Being so far away from Mom and Dad is pretty tough. I've tried to make up for that a small bit by calling every day. It helps me to know where mom is day to day, how dad is feeling, and what their needs might be.

But some days it is a hard call to make. Lately, it's hard because I so desperately want to talk to my mom. A lot of days, her taking the phone and talking to me is too much energy--emotional and physical both--for her to handle. So... I've talked to my Dad a lot. That has been wonderful, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you just want your mom... It is hard to know that she won't even take the phone for me to just say, "Hi. I love you."

I try hard to keep it in perspective and to not take it personally. It could be mom's way to sort of keep a distance, I'm not sure. But I'd love to talk to her. I know that she is still there. I know that Mom still exists, but I feel like I can't get through the Lung Cancer and the limitations it's given us to get to her. Maybe when I'm home....

So there is my little phone call pity party.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I want my mom...

We went to bed really early here last night. Andy's schedule has been brutal enough that this week has been a very, "Hate the Navy" week, and I may not be working 14 hour days like him... but carrying this little girl is sapping a lot of my energy and oomph.

Anyway, we were laying there and I groggily started thinking about labor and delivery... and Mom... I took it for granted that my mom would be there when my baby was born. Even through the pregnancy. We had plans made before the 'C' word was uttered. Even with the distance between us, they were going to fly out and be here as soon as they could whether that was for part of the labor, or immediately after.

I'm really lucky. It looks like Andy will be here when she is born as long as she is not too late. And I will have two doulas there to support me. But I want my mom. I want to be able to look in her eyes and see her remembering when I was born. I want to hold her hand. I want the comfort and reassurance that only Mom's can bring. I want her to tell me I can do this when I am ready to give up. I want my Mom!

The baby and her will have time together when I head out to be with them. But I'll never get that birth that I always pictured without knowing it... with my Mom by my side or in the waiting room... With her help in the days after. My mom has this way of dispensing help and wisdom like no one else does. And I want that.

Even now, I want to call her for reassurance about things... and talk about pregnant stuff with her, and ask her questions, and be scared, and just... talk to my Mom. On the rare day she's up to talking on the phone, we don't get there.

I just miss my mom.

I know that whether this is how I pictured things happening or not, this is how they are. And I will choose to be joyful in them. I will know that mom and dad are pulling for me even if they aren't there in person. And I will share this experience with them despite the distance. I will be grateful for having my husband near, when a lot of women married to sailors and soldiers aren't able to have that right now. But I know... there is going to be this part of me that will just be missing her. I will honor that part though, and hopefully it will be part of the beauty.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


All through college, anytime I felt overwhelmed by stuff in general I would say that I was going to my 'cave in Zimbabwe.' I picked Zimbabwe at random. Yes I know there is a great deal of political unrest there, and I'm not sure if there are a whole lot of caves. Really I just like to say the word 'Zimbabwe' and a cave there seemed like it might be a nice place to hide until the world went away. Sometimes I would follow through with this by just going to bed for a long time.

Parts of me want to find that cave again sometimes. But... maybe it is where I am right now, or maybe I have grown up a little.... I can't go to my cave in Zimbabwe. If I were to tuck myself away right now, I would miss so much. If I tucked myself away now, I would miss the last few weeks and days I have with my husband nearby. If I were to find that cave when Andy deploys, I would miss precious time with Mom. And all this is not to mention the fact that... I have a baby coming!

A lot of people mention that this is the time that, "you just want the baby out, right?" Ok, I confess... the swollen feet and ankles aren't a whole lot of fun. I can't figure out what in the world is going on with my stomach half the time... and it really would be easier to take care of this little one and bond with her if she was on the outside, Mostly though, I feel like this is the time I am given, and so, I guess this is the time I will live. I DO want the baby to be born at a time when we will have a lot of time for her to be with Andy... But I trust my body, and I trust God (at least part of the time) to get her here when it's time.

So I guess my point is, that I neither want to cocoon myself away from the world, tempting as it is some days... nor do I want to fast forward through time, even in this uncomfortable part of my pregnancy. Because... TIME is all I have right now. Time with Mom. Time with Andy. If I squander it by hiding and rushing, it's gone.

Squandering it by ignoring housework, however... is a whole other matter. Productivity is highly over-rated. And again I ask... WHERE IS THIS NESTING INSTINCT?!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

*OUCH*+ Crazy Emotions

I've been worrying about post-partum depression lately. With only a couple weeks til little girl gets here, things are getting more real. We're trying to get ready when we're not being screwed over by the Navy, I/we have energy, and I/we don't feel like crap... Also it helps if husband is awake. Those things don't all happen at once very often it seems.

So anyway... Worrying about post-partum stuff in general. Husband will take off a week or two after baby gets here *IF* she gets here on time. Otherwise... Tough noogies, he's on a boat. With my support system being ripped out from underneath me like a rug on a linoleum floor, I worry that... I will spiral down from baby blues to just being overwhelmed with sad. It is hard when my husband leaves even if it's only for a month... Especially when that month is at the beginning of a year of my not even living in the same state as he does when he's on land... And "When he's on land" is a very limited amound of time.

A lot of people in my situation (i.e. having a baby) might not have to worry as much because their parents or other family members would be there to support them. No such luck. The trip from the bedroom to the living room is enough to make my mom need a nap. She's not going to be able to make it out here. The toughest thing about this is that a lot of well-meaning but generally clueless people don't think of this. They say, "Oh, if things get overwhelming, that's what the Grandma's are for." And in most cases, they'd be right. But MY MOM can't come, and Andy's will be headed off to Hawaii... So that leaves Me, Me, and ME... to cope with the overwhelmingness of new baby, moving, and husband leaving all at once. When people say things like that, or say, "Your mom will be there, right?" or whatever... I have to try really hard to remember that they are clueless and mean well. Because really, when I hear those things, it just hurts like hell. I wish my mom COULD be here. I wish she could see her grand-daughter when she's still fresh from God. I wish she could hold my hand, and help me with laundry, and hold the baby too much. But she can't right now... because she's 2000 miles away fighting for her life.

It's another one of the kind of day where I want to SCREAM--"Things aren't normal!!!!" Other people deal with new babies coming, and they get overwhelmed. Other people deal with husbands leaving, and they get overwhelmed. I get to do both of those things, move, and know that my mom is really, really sick all at the same time. If that's normal and "nothing to worry about," then I quit!

Really, I am generally more even-keel about things. Things will work out one way or another. I might have to ask for help from people I don't know very well... or just really muddle through all by myself at times, but we'll make it. Today is just one of those days where, due to pregnancy or the general craziness of life in general right now, my emotions are just pumped up to the Nth degree. Sucks... but I'll live.

Now, I guess I should get a shower, wake my sleeping husband up... and go do the stuff that needs done today. I miss my cave in Zimbabwe. I really, really do.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Feeling Blessed and Sad

Daddy wrote me a letter that I received today trying to pass on wisdom for us as we begin the journey of parenthood. It made me cry, and I sit here just feeling SO BLESSED at the parents I have, and so sad for the changes LC has already brought to our family.

My folks are the type... who, no matter how far away I am, if something is important to me, they'll be there. I'm so lucky that way. They helped me through my first separation from my husband when he went to boot camp (was living in same town as them at the time). They helped me with my homework in school. They made every extra-curricular event that I had in school, and they just had to come visit at college every couple of months because they wanted to see me. I'm so lucky. I know that if circumstances were different, I could count on them coming to visit us wherever we were... even at duty stations in other countries, and even as far away as we are now... Just because they'd want to be with us. (Husband is in the Navy btw)

I know that they desperately, desperately want to be here when the baby is born... That they want to hold her when she is still 'fresh from God.' That they want to hold my hand through the contractions, and if my husband isn't able to be here during the birth or has to leave soon after, that they want to be the ones to help me through the first days of 'new mommyhood.' And I hate that they can't.

I hate that when I think of a recipe mom always made SOO well I can't just pick up the phone and call for her help with it because I know she might be sleeping or having a day when just talking on the phone takes sooo much energy.

I hate that they can't decide to go to the riverboat and have a good time with friends just on a whim... that's too far to travel and mom rarely feels up to it.

I believe Mom is going to have some better days. I really, really do. But it just seems like the cancer has taken so much from her already and it makes me mad and sad.

And all this makes me grateful too for what I get to do this year... It will be hard to leave my husband while he is still on land to go and be near my folks after the baby gets here... but it's MY TURN to do the rearranging and to say YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT that I'm HERE. I'm so lucky and blessed to be able to do that. I thank God for the opportunity.

Regarding Smoking

The topic of smoking has become even more touchy to me lately. Right now my biggest pet peeve in the world (and this is an understatement) is when people find out my mom has lung cancer... or are talking to me about her lung cancer and their first question is... "Did she smoke?" or if they know her, "Is she still smoking?" What the fuck does it matter if she smokes or if she is still smoking? She has CANCER. Nobody DESERVES CANCER!!!! Nobody ASKS FOR IT!!!! And we all make stupid choices that could lead to our own downfall... So WHY does that have to be the first (or even second or third or fifteenth) thing out of people's mouths?!

Ok... small rant finished.

My mom and dad have been smokers for as long as I can remember. Apparently, I was a very militant three year old and convinced them at about that time that they shouldn't smoke anymore, and they quit! But then... a few years later when I was in about 2nd grade, I found out that they were smoking again (on the sly). My militant nature wasn't gone yet... I can remember trying all kinds of things to get them to stop when I was younger. And when I became a teenager and got into the "Christian scene" I'm sure I pretty much sucked at hiding my disdain about their decision to continue smoking. *Wishes she could go back and smack that disdainful little Pharisee known as me*

My friends were no help. They would see people smoking and talk about how stupid people who smoked were... How could they not know what they were doing to their bodies and how could they continue doing that? And furthermore how could they be so rude as to smoke around other people--especially perfect little them?? So... people stopped coming to my house, because I was embarassed. Can remember a couple of times in college when my folks would take my friends and I out to eat somewhere when they would come visit and someone would inevitably make a comment about the smokiness and I would want to come unglued.

Slowly... partly through learning from the lives of people on a message board I'm active on, it dawned on me that my condemnation of my parents was... uncalled for, extremely hurtful, unmerciful, and in all other ways just plain wrong. Wish I would have learned that sooner.

In the last 6 years or so, both of my parents have tried to quit smoking probably... 5 or 10 different times. Then we got this dreaded news that mom has Stage IV lung cancer. I want to tell you that she doesn't smoke anymore, and neither does my dad... But gosh darn it they are going through THE MOST STRESSFUL, EMOTIONAL, DIFFICULT struggle that they've ever been through... and habit says reach for that pack.

I know that I can't make my parents stop smoking. Hell, Lung Cancer can't even make them stop. It doesn't make them any less wonderful parents or people. (I couldn't ask for better, and I wish I could yell that at people being disdainful of smokers who have small children). If I am going to support them in this it is going to be through celebration of when the struggle against smoking is going well... and frankly, silence and acceptance when it's not. I believe both of my parents will kick this habit, and I believe they're both on the verge of doing so... but it can't be from anything I've done. All I can do is LOVE them with or without a cigarette in their mouth. And, that's what I choose to do.


So I'm pissed off tonight at people who take advantage of folks in my parent's position. I've been reading up about this Supplement stuff that Vern and Linda are trying to sell Mom and Dad on. It's supposed to help MS, ADD/ADHD, cancer, etc. etc. They tell one thing to patients and another to stockholders about safety and effectiveness. It sounds to me like it's snake oil.

And what disturbs me almost as much is that Dad is seriously looking into getting it. I feel like they're going to be taken advantage of. I'm pretty sure it won't hurt anything, but I'm also pretty sure it won't help anything. It's just a damn money scheme as far as I can tell... With Christian leanings...

They need to save money now so they can pay for treatments...
And it's VERN AND LINDA selling the snake oil. It's great and wonderful if Linda believes that this stuff has helped her, but to jump immediately into peddling this shit to Mom and Dad when they found out Mom had cancer. That's just low and despicable to me. And freaking rude. How about just being there to support them. Isn't that what family is supposed to do?

Talking to Daddy tonight was hard... He's so down. He so wants to 'fix' this stuff. He wants mom to not have cancer. He wants to be able to get her to eat. He wants to make the pain go away. He can't, of course, and feel so helpless. And people are always offering up their 'fix it solutions' too. "Eat Orange Foods." "Supplements." blahblahblah... I wish I could be there and here. I really do. I need to be with Andy now, but... I just wish I could be there to help Daddy. He needs a place to vent and he needs help doing what all needs done there. He doesn't have many chances to get away from stuff.

As for me, I'm feeling really depressed the last few days. I just feel so overwhelmed by everything. By figuring out how to have time with Andy. Wondering if he'll be here when the baby is born. Wanting to give him as much time as I can with baby C, but wanting to get back to Mom too. And I'm sick. I'm freaking sick and can't hear. I can't HEAR!!! It's so irritating. I have this constant ringing in my ears, but can't hear Andy if he talks to me from another room, or says something when he's not facing me. I've been sick for so freaking long and to have that as a constant on top of all the other stuff that is so hard just really SUCKS! I just feel so worn down. I feel like I can't face the basic tasks in front of me, including getting ready for baby to get here. Thank you cards and simple cleaning are more than I can muster.

I feel so isolated in this. My friends don't want to ask about it, and damn it, I won't say a word unless they do. The support groups that I have for different things can't possible understand everything. The household six ladies might understand my feeling sad over deployments and time away from Andy, but they can't understand stuff with my mom. The cancer people might understand about how I feel about mom being sick, but they can't understand the impending deployment feeling. People can and do sympathize with pregnancy and sick difficulties... but have they tried those on top of having a seriously ill, and in pain mother, and a husband about to be away from you and his daughter for a year?

And I need people to realize that life for me isn't normal right now. That... I might be limping through. That it might be hard to just glow about the baby coming because so many other things are happening too. I need to know that it is ok with people for me to be sad. I just feel like... I have to try to maintain 'ok.'

And I just feel sad... I just do. Sad and down. And lonely.

Being Made...1-27-2005

This is a post I made on the Brennan Board which I guess I shouldn't have.... But I thought the thoughts were valid and good, so I wanted to keep them here.

Being Made

You ask what made me? I think, it is more that I am being made. The nails are being driven in to put this woman together right now. What I see behind me are loving parents, the foundations of a faith laid down, random memories of ice cream and dusks where I found myself in a pile of kids laughing and gasping for air after an evening of running. But now is different. I think now some of the I-beams are being laid.

I look at what I am living right now, and know that the story is not so extraordinary.... but I don't think it is 'normal, everyday life' either. I am overwhelmed by the things I am surrounded by, and yet... at the same time I feel so blessed.

I think... maybe... ten years from now if you ask me this question, I'll look back at this time. I'll think about being a newlywed and adjusting to life as a Navy wife... I'll think about my Mom being sick, and my having to balance hope and reality as we deal with the starkness that is Stage IV lung cancer. I'll think of the wonder and difficulty and fatigue involved in carrying my first child. I'll think about worrying about my husband not being able to be with me as this baby comes into the world--Maybe I'll look back on the gratitude of him being there, or the strength I didn't know I had in laboring without him. I'll think about how hard it was to anticipate him leaving for a month just days after his daughter is born, and my leaving him to be with my mother so soon after her birth too. My 'first deployment' (yep that's coming too) memories will be so different than those ladies who get to wave goodbye to their husbands at the pier--fuller, I think as I know I have a place to be and tasks to do in caring for my daughter and my mom. I think I'll know more about making sacrifices as a result of the year facing me. Heck, I might remember being absolutely miserable with one sickness after another for three full months of my pregnancy too, but I bet it won't be the stuff I look back on as something that 'made me.'

I hope I'll come out of all of this with a better understanding of the goodness and mercy of God. I hope my marriage will be stronger and that the appreciation of my family and those I love in the NOW will be one of my core values. I hope I'll be made of sterner stuff and softer heart. I also hope I'll look back on myself at this point with gentleness... and with gratefulness to Him who is making me.Maybe those aren't little things... but life right now is full of little things that make up these things that seem so very big. Phone calls to my mom... the time I spent with her and dad on my trip last week. The hug I gave mom when I FINALLY got home after flights from hell. Moments where I HAVE to touch my husband just to know he is still near for now.... Laughing, and being so grateful to still be able to. Crying, and being so thankful to have my husband to hold me and his daughter in my belly... and our musings at how hard it is to hug with her in the middle there. So... I can't tell you what made me yet... but I think I'll have a better answer once I'm through living these chapters.

~~More for tonight~~
Going back to visit Mom and Dad really did me some good, and I hope did them some good too. I feel a little better most of the time about being back here and not there just yet. While I was there I think I realized that I needed this time with Andy, and I need any little bit of time Andy can have to be with his daughter.

That is the thing that is ripping me up most about all that is happening this year... The lack of time Andy will have with Baby C. after she gets here. It was looking like a matter of weeks as it was. Now, we have this impending month long det. not too long after she arrives (Depending on when she arrrives). It'll be down to days if I'm going to make it out by April. If I don't go then... well, I just don't know. Maybe I'll fly out the last part of that det. and fly back to see Andy some more. But that leaves questions about what is happening with the apartment at that time. I still just don't know how this is all going to fall into place. Andy is working with his chain of command to try to skip that Det... and I'm hopeful, but that makes me worry too because I'm afraid that them showing him leniency now, might mean less leniency later. I'm afraid he'll get a name for himself as a guy who asks too much because of his family.

I think I am plugging along ok with all that is on my plate right now. But, sometimes I just really want people to know that it's HARD. I want them to get that this isn't a normal pregnancy. It isn't a normal gearing up for deployment/separation. Things are just all so multi-faceted right now.
I don't even want to think about packing... Eesh. Yuck. I feel awful now... after the baby comes how will I ever have the gumption to pack. Maybe we need to be packing up now. I guess we need to figure out when I'm leaivng and when we're vacating officially, though.


Well, something really cool is happening. I met Jamie and Todd New Year's Eve when they came over to play some games with us. I really liked Jamie and thought, "Hey.... prospective Ice Cream buddy." So I called her this week. She came over today and had some cookeis with me and just chatted about all sorts of everything. It turns out, about 2 years ago she was in just about the exact spot I stand with all this stuff. Her mom had just been diagnosed, Todd was about to go out on work-ups and deployments... and she went home for 6 mos. Unfortunately, her mother's battle was over very quickly (please God... let that NOT be a similarity). It is such an encouragement though, to know someone that's been there... And I think Jamie sounds like pretty good friend material.

Mom called me back today... which at first encouraged me, but she just sounded so bad. I wasn't able to talk to her because Jamie was here... maybe she will be sort of up to talk tomorrow. I'm so scared about going home next week, because I'm afraid of what I'll find. It will be so hard to see her in pain. But I WANT to be there. It's funny to want and dread something all at once.

I am starting to entertain the idea that perhaps I need to just GO to be with mom. Please God, please... let me get there by the time I need to be. Let mom have some time with her grand daughter.

Daddy has gotten real up front with me lately about how bad things are. He says that she has gone way downhill since she was here in Thanksgiving and he doesn't think she'd be able to do anything like that at this point. He says she sleeps much more, and she's much more weak. I'm so afraid... I'm just so afraid. And yet, Dad thinks we have some time. I WANT to get to that CHEMO ASAP. We need to start slaying this beast! I think we're all fearing it and wishing it would get here all at once. I hate hearing that she is having lung pain--that means the beast is growing. WE NEED TO FIGHT IT BACK!

I've done some research about the chemo mom will be on. Cisplatin and Gemzar seem to be top-notch, kick-ass drugs. I was worried that the doctor wasn't wanting to be agressive. Sounds like I didn't need to worry about that. Mom is getting good care. That makes me feel like I can relax about that a little. The side effects don't sound pleasant, but the people I've heard from who've experienced the treatment said that it's very doable. I want to start using this weapon.

I'm afraid too about seeing other people while I'm back. It's abundantly clear that my friends at home don't get it. Becca might have gotten a slight inkling when dad told her that mom wouldn't be able to come to the shower. I want to see people, but I want as much time with mom and dad that I can have. And... I am afraid for the awkwardness. For the questions. For the silence on the other end of the conversation when people start to understand that Stage IV isn't curable.

This little girl inside of me gives me hope. I don't know God's thoughts, but I want to believe that he wouldn't take mom before she gets to see this little one. Not with the uncanny weirdness of the timing.... Her name will mean, "Song of Light" and I trust that she will be that... I want mom to be able to lean back in the exquisite loveliness of the song... God please... please...


The New Year is here. Want to know a secret? I feel neither happy, nor excited about it. I feel scared spitless. I know it's not having my game face on, but I really worry about what the year will bring for mom. I PRAY it brings relief of pain and progress against this demon of a disease... but I fear other things that I don't even want to substantiate by putting them down in print.

I'm overwhelmed in so many ways... by the coming of the baby, by impending separations from Andy, the logistics of figuring out what to do when our lease is up and where exactly I'll live. I'm worried about the timing. It seems a wonderful plan to go back to Mom and Dad's for longer Dets. and Andy's deployment... but what if those things come too late? What if things move really quickly and I need to be back even before the baby is born and can't be because of travel restrictions?

The other night I started thinking about going into labor and imagined myself just wanting my mom... Gosh that made me cry. I so wish she could be here to greet her grand-daughter as she enters the world... and to do the 'mom stuff' that mom's do when their daughters have babies... but I will make it through without that. I'm so thankful for our doula.
Due to a post on the support board for lung cancer survivors and family members, I've also begun thinking about Insurance. I wonder if mom and dad are sticking to treatment at in their smaller hospital because Insurance stipulates that. I wonder if a second opinion should be sought, and I wonder if more agressive treatment should be pursued. I want to use whatever weapons are out there to FIGHT to have my Mom here with me and dad and her grand-daughter as long as possible.

So then, I started researching Insurance and Health Care policies and now I'm going... "Holy crap! The politicians are right! We're in the midst of a crisis!" I'm wondering how I can advocate for the right decisions to be made for health care, but I'm not sure what they are... Rationing care certainly doesn't seem to be in favor of lung cancer patients though... so I'm definitely not for that, though it appears that is what the trend is covertly these days, at least according to one man's take on the situation. I woke up over and over again last night... in a sleepless stupor trying to figure out a solution to health care in America.... Hehehe...

I don't know how to get to mom long term... how the logistics will work out for me to be there... when I should go. Our lease is up in April, I'm planning on moving to be near them... what do we do in the interim time?
I keep rapid-fire letting out thoughts here. Wonder if this will be a place for brain dumps about this stuff, or if I'll ever organize my thoughts? I hope the latter happens eventually.

So... I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and I'm tired. I'm going to bed. The thoughts will roll around to be captured here another day.



Palliative is my least favorite word right now. It is the current object of my hatred. I suppose, I should be positive about the word palliative. It refers to care given to lessen symptoms and lengthen life... but the unspoken ugly side of the word 'palliative' is the idea that it is treatment with an objective other than a cure.

My mom has lung cancer. I have been wanting to write about it as so many of my thoughts swirl around it. Who knows what will come of this little journal. It feels like something to be shared, but something to be shared carefully.

Mom found out right before Thanksgiving that Lung Cancer was the beast we would be fighting. A few weeks later, we found out that it was Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Damn it. Those were the words that my being beat out and my mouth uttered over and over when we got that news. Stage 4. That's the incurable kind. That's the kind with stats that indicate that less than 5% of people who hear the words in reference to them make it five years. That's the kind they can't operate on. That's when they use words like 'palliative.' Damn it.

I tell myself that my mother is not a statistic. That she is a person. I know this is the truth. I tell myself I have to hold onto hope. But then I wonder what it is that hope exactly means in this situation. What is hope and what is whistling in the dark?

As I write, more and more things that I have wanted to put into written form flood my mind. I want to talk about everything in this first entry, but what will I write about tomorrow?

I've been feeling rather a lack of support from my friends regarding this situation. When I sent out my 'bad news' email, I got a few 'We're praying for you,' responses. Then after that, it was like it hadn't happened. I haven't told most people that it's Stage 4 because people haven't cared to ask about it.

Then there are the people who do ask. There is the 'How is your mom?' that is thrown out there as casually and flippantly as a normal, 'how are you?' They don't really want me to say, "She's in a lot of pain." They want me to say, "She's ok," so they can feel better about themselves for asking and go on to talk about scrapbooking or boy trouble or grocery shopping. There are the people who ask probably with good intentions, but because of their ignorance, their mentioning it hurts. "Does she have a good chance?" "She's doing treatment right?" These are the people who probably know of cancer, but don't know much about it. Lung Cancer is a whole different ball of wax than what people are used to in typical 'cancer stories'. It's nice that they try, but it still comes as a kick in the gut, or at the very least a burr in the butt (depending on the way things go).

And then there are the people who say nothing. I don't know if that's easiest, or if it hurts most of all.

The best people are the ones that I know I can talk with about the situation and be real. The ones that know something about cancer of this type or have life experience that helps them to intuitively listen, ask, and respond. The ones whose 'been there/done that' t-shirts might not include the world 'lung cancer' but do include other words that give them a clue. These people let me know that they care about and worry about me as well as mom. They let me know that I don't have to sugar-coat the answers I give. And they don't try to make things better than they are. Then, when that part of the conversation is over... when I feel satisfied and emptied about the subject... we talk about other things. Normal things. It is a good balance. I thank God for these people. Without them, I fear I'd spiral deep down into the dungeon of isolation.

Then there's how I react to it. I'm 2000 miles away and all I can do is call home. I feel like every time I call, I am doing or saying the wrong thing. Mom always sounds like she really doesn't want to talk to me. If I don't talk about the cancer I feel like they think I'm glossing it over and just prattling on... Like I'm being like the seemingly non-caring people who say little or nothing to me. If I do talk about it, I wonder if they are tired of talking about it. I know that I get tired of saying over and over, "They're doing Radiation, and Chemo and she's in a lot of pain," to other people. It stands to reason that they don't want to give out the details of each radiation treatment every single day either. At the same time, if I don't call and ask the questions how am I supposed to know what is going on? I worry that I am tiring mom out, that I am making dad's day gloomier. It feels awful. After I get off the phone, generally about 30 seconds later I want to pick up and call again. That urge comes and goes for the rest of the day. I miss my parents, and I want our talks together to be more than about the beast.

That better be my last thought for tonight. There will be other nights to talk about the other things swirling around. Now there is an established place for the 'Cancer Musings' to go and somehow that makes me feel better.

*N0te* I have since discovered that at this point, we're not to what is thought of as 'palliative' care. We're still fighting... hoping for remission, and hoping that each gut-wrenching treatment mom undergoes will bring us a little more time together.

Why I'm Here

In November, my mother found out she had Lung Cancer... In December, after a PET scan we learned that the cancer had metasticized to her bones classing it as Stage IV. As I have tried to deal with this blow (as well as other complexities of life right now), I've needed a place to verbally process through what is going right now. At first I wrote in my journal (You'll see those initial entries following this one). As I would write, I thought to myself about how much I needed to hear that other people felt similar things... I thought that perhaps I wasn't the only one who needed that. And so I've decided to write a blog. Maybe... somehow, somebody out there will find these strings of thoughts and be able to relate. I hope it will bring others comfort to know that they aren't alone in their feelings.